In 1774 Ann Lee, better known as Mother Ann, emigrated from Europe to New York with the first members of the “Shaking Quakers,” a religious group known for their lively worship and prayer services.
Shakers were disciplined, devoted, hard-working people who valued frugality and simplicity. Known for their furniture craftsmanship, music and avant-garde approach to agriculture, they experienced much economic success.
Throughout the 1800s the Shakers attracted over 20,000 converts spread over 20 settlements. But because of their strict belief in celibacy, the community of 20,000 dwindled, and by 1920 only 12 Shaker communities withstood. Today, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in Maine is the only active Shaker Community.
Here in central Kentucky we are incredibly fortunate to have our own historical Shaker landmark. Less than 30 miles from Lexington, on 2,900 acres of farmland, sits one of the finest memorials to the Shaker way of life in America, Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill. The 34 preserved, original 19th-century buildings, meticulously kept grounds, walking trails, inn and restaurant even have Martha Stewart singing its praises.
And seven days a week in the Trustee Dining Hall at Pleasant Hill, a sweet slice of that tradition can be enjoyed: Shaker Lemon Pie.
The Ohio branch of the Shaker community stake claim to this pie’s development in the early 1800s when lemons were shipped up the Mississippi River from New Orleans, then over to Cincinnati via the Ohio River. At that time, a crate of lemons were said to have cost the equivalent of $200 in today’s economy. Because of their frugality, Shakers believed it was a sin to waste food and consequently developed a lemon pie recipe using the entire lemon, rind and all. The Shaker Lemon Pie was born.
Shaker Lemon Pie is a tricky recipe at best. The original recipe calls for macerating the thinly sliced lemons in sugar and letting them sit for 24 hours to draw out the lemons’ bitterness. Today’s recipes have tried to accommodate busy lifestyles by cutting the sugar steeping time down significantly, which unfortunately doesn’t work and leaves the pie with a bitter, pithy, tough result. This recipe from Cooks Country (www.cookscountry.com) is one I use with excellent results. Its proven scientific baking principles produce a great tasting pie with minimal time and effort.
Shaker Lemon Pie
• 3 lemons
• 2 cups water
• 1 3/4 cups sugar
• 1/8 tsp. salt